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Rob en Dafne de Jong

Ride-on from Zimbabwe through Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya to Uganda

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Date: 5 May 1999

Mooly Bwanjee (Chechewa, Malawi tribal language),

We are kind of ashamed not to have written this report sooner. It was such a long time since you heard from us. Of course we have a reason. We are simply so busy all the time that every time we thought about it we were really too tired. At this moment it is 22.45 PM, so late again.

Zimbabwe

I have to start our story in Zimbabwe, which we entered on the 29th of December last year. We crossed the border at Victoria Falls, coming from Namibia through a small part of Botswana.

Victoria Falls is a nice small town, which is very busy with tourists from all over the world. The Falls themselves are beautiful, but if you ask us to choose between Niagara Falls (USA/Canada), Foz the Iquazu (Argentina/Brazil) or Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe/Zambia), I think we will choose Foz de Iquazu to be the most beautiful. The area where you can wander around is much bigger and more interesting. Next to that the butterflies that are at Foz are stunning and there is no helicopter flying above your head every half-hour.

Zimbabwe itself is a great place to go. Because communication is possible, all peoples (also most of the black people) speak good English and are very friendly, you really get a good feeling of Zimbabwe. We spent New Years Eve in Hwange Nat. Park, where at 23.50 PM a pride of lions started roaring in the distance, as the perfect way to tell us New Year would be there soon. A black Wildebeest also heard the lions and thought it to be safer to share our safety at the campsite. He stayed nearby all night.

From Hwange we went to Bulawayo, one of the few city's we really enjoyed visiting. The main boulevard through there is huge, because in the old days the ox-drivers, who had six oxen in front of their wagons needed to turn their wagons there. Zimbabwe used to be Cecil Rhodes Rhodesia. In Bulawayo we went to the Railway Museum, where his personal railway-coach is displayed. When you ask the manager, an old Englishmen whose eyes start to shine when you talk with him about Cecil Rhodes time, he will let you go in Cecil Rhodes coach. You may sit on Rhodes chair at his dinner table and toast on whatever you want, with Rhodes glass, that shows it's age by the amount of dust that's on it, in your hand.

Both in Hwange and in Bulawayo we enjoyed the company of Germans Karl and Andrea and their children and of Gunter and Anette, who for a change in a long time gave us the feeling being on a holiday (we need one right now as I write this).

In Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, we had to buy new passports at the Dutch embassy and it happened that the Zim dollar dropped down so fast that we had to pay additionally when we came to collect the passports one week later. We still do not agree with them about this, as it was normal that we paid in advance. You can imagine what both of us thought, having had to deal with corruption so many times already. We couldn't believe it when we heard we had to pay more.

In Harare we stayed with friends of friends from South Africa, who again made it hard for us to leave. We were invited to visit a SOS-Children's Villages project: The SOS-Maizelands farm near Bindura and planned to go there a day or two. You guess it right: We stayed a week and had a wonderful time with Paul and Cathy, Daf (named after the Dutch truck, because he is as big as one), Elizabeth and little Henry, who would say "Why?" on anything you told or asked him. We saw how the cotton-plants at the farms were drowning due to the loads of rain that was falling, learned how tobacco leaves are dried in dry-houses, drove two off-road bikes over the muddy-tracks through the farmlands and sailed a nearby artificial lake on a busboat.

We also joined Daf and Elizabeth to Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world, where we went fishing bream and tigerfish. Daf (Dafne looked up every time somebody called his name) had told us about the monstrosity of this fish and we were prepared to do the fighting. You can imagine what happened when monstrous Daf caught a tigerfish not bigger than his little finger. We had a lovely time.

Zambia

On we went into Zambia, where we met Peter Fauel for the second time (we met in South Africa).

Peter, who is head of Multichoice, the company who sells packages of satellite tv-channels, amongst which the KidsTV Channel that made a program about our tour and project The World on a Children's Drawing. Peter started not only with giving us a donation, but also got some other companies involved in doing the same. We visited 3 schools and an orphanage Kasisi, where more and more children of parents that died of Aids live. There is a special warden with very young children that are sick of Aids. It's a very sad story and we really have a lot of respect for sister Mariola and the other brave sisters.

On our way to Malawi, in Petauke, we delivered a letter from one of the schoolteachers we met in Lusaka to his parents, who live on a small farm. We were lucky to find it, for his directions were like: Go straight past the petrol station till you see two big trees. Turn left there onto a small path. The farm was real African, built of self-made stones with a grass roof. The bathroom outside was made of tree branches and mud and was so small that we could not stand up straight or turn around without touching the walls. We stayed overnight in our tent next to the maize, that grows all around.

The road from Lusaka to the Malawi-border has been improved for 200 kms, but after that it is more a group of potholes with accidentally some tar in between. We also went to Luangwa NP, but never went in the park itself for we liked it more to ride the off-road bike of Wildlife Camp manager Marc around. And we travel a long way on US$ 180,-!

de Jong's Home

Travel Stories, English:

January 2002,
Ride on 2002...
October 2001,
Ride on Home
July 2001,
Russia and
Siberia
April 2001,
Japan
Jan 2001,
Arizona
Dec 2000,
California
Oct 2000, L.A
to Fresno via
Inuvik
Sep 2000,
New Zealand
July 2000,
Australia part 2
April 2000 India
and Australia,
part 1
Dec 1999,
Istanbul
to Kathmandu
Nov 1999,
Shoeshine boy
of Gondar

Sept 1999,
Uganda to
Turkey
May 1999,
Zimbabwe to
Uganda
Dec 1998,
South Africa
and Namibia
Sept 1998,
Swaziland &
Lesotho

June 1998,
S. Africa 1
April 1998,
W.Africa 2
March 1998,
W. Africa 1

Travel Stories, In het Nederlands:

July 2001,
Rusland en
Siberie
April 2001,
Japan
Jan 2001,
Arizona

Thanks!

We want to thank everybody who has taken the time to mail us since our last newsletter. In the States Harley Women`s Magazine has finally (after one year) published our article about West Africa. Hope it will not take them another year to pay us.

Furthermore we would like to thank:

In Zambia:
Peter Fauel of Multichoice
Rose-Mary of M-net
Chummy of Power Equipement
South African Airways

In Malawi:
Kevin Smith of Multichoice
Mr. Robb of Stansfield Motors

In Tanzania:
KLM-Arusha

In Kenya:
Kodak and Fuji
South African Airways

For their support to take our Ride-on World Tour and The World on a Children's Drawing further on the road.

Check out the Books pages for Travel books and videos.

Support your favourite website!

 

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Malawi

Malawi stole our hearts. The people are not only friendly, they are sweet. We stayed a long time at the SOS-Children's Village (where orphaned and left alone children are given a permanent home and a new future) to photograph a portrait for our Dutch office, mostly due to the bad whether (the rainy season has started).

We loved to travel around to Blantyre, Zomba and to Lake Malawi at touristic Cape McClear, where we snorkelled and got sick of kayaking, because there was so much wind. It seamed as if this island we were going to never wanted to come closer. Then we went north to Mzuzu, where the market is really relaxed and we played (and lost off course) a game of draft with some local boys. The stones were Sprite and Cola bottletops.

In Malawi people are always going somewhere, walking at the roadside or in the middle, carrying everything on their heads or having a bicycle overloaded. Firewood sellers have an ingenious way to load their bikes, the wood reaching out above their heads when sitting in the saddle. The load is too heavy to cycle uphill, so they push. But their load is also too heavy to cycle downhill, we noticed seeing them coming down totally out of control, their bikes shaking and almost losing it.

Malawi is also a very poor country. Now, that the new crops cannot be harvested yet people are hungry. The government has imported maize and aid has come from Europe and USAID, but is not given to the people. Instead we hear that the government has almost doubled the price of maize and we see a warehouse full of "gift to the people of Malawi" maize..."from the British Government", that belonged to the Malawi government and would be sold to the people, we were told.

On the way to Lake Malawi, we came across 270 children that went to school under a tree. When it starts raining the lesson is over. The children sit on the often dirty and muddy ground. There is no money to built more rooms, the teachers earn too little to feed their families and are being hungry, while teaching hungry kids. The little material they had was lying on the ground of the principals' small room, which was getting wet as soon as it started raining. When we saw this we decided to spent US$50,- out of the children's fund that we initiated on having a local carpenter made a bookshelf to at least save these materials from deteriorating. We had a lovely time in the small village, being introduced to everyone with some influence, as the word of our gift (at the value of three months wages) spread around. Could write a book about this.

Malawi is also the country where we saw a poor guy taking a bath in a pothole filled with water at the roadside. He could have been drunk off course, but it did not look like it.

The last night we were in Malawi, we slept at a local hostel and went to the bar next door, where we could afford to eat fish and rice (which they pronounce as lice) and had a lovely night at the veranda. A local man and his son were chopping pieces of meat to roast them on a coal-fire. Boys and girls were showing off on their bicycles. Some Tanzanian hookers were hanging around and small boys were playing with homemade wire-cars.

Tanzania

In Tanzania you enter a large hilly tea-planting area which is great to ride through. We could camp in the bush every night and enjoyed the peacefulness and quietness it gave us. We did not go to Dar es Salam, but turned left and went into the Usambara mountains. Great area for mountainbiking, hiking, riding off-road bikes or even trials. There are a lot of small villages, but the influence of colonialism is very present, with classy houses and nice gardens. The reason for this is the excellent climate up here and the mountains, being no more that 5 hrs away from Dar es Salam made all those rich people come up here to relax and cool down from the hot temperatures in Dar.

We drove along the Kilimanjaro, but it was the map that said that the mountain was there. We have not seen it because the clouds were hanging low. In Arusha KLM sponsored us for 1000 kms, something that is becoming more and more important, for our finances are getting lower and lower and East Africa is far from cheap. We visited a local primary school with our project "The World on a Children's Drawing... to connect children world wide by exchanging their drawings."

We then took the Babati road to go into the Rift Valley, where we were invited to stay at Kirurumu Tented Lodge. This is the ultimate way to spend your holiday if you want to camp and feel romantic. The tents are big with romantic beds and a hot shower. The view from your own veranda is great even during the rainy season, when clouds are ever changing.

We had some problems leaving the place though, as it was raining from time to time and the muddy roads did not have time to dry up. We were positive however to try to reach Mwanza at Lake Victoria going from Babati to Singuida, but the road between Babati to Katesch was washed away in one place, where we ended almost knee-deep in the mud and were pushed out by many people. There were many trucks and busses stuck for a few days already and we were the only one getting through that day.

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Loop through Kenya

Next day we decided to return and make a loop along Nairobi in Kenya and take another better road around Lake Victoria to Mwanza, as we did not manage to take a muddy hill without any helping hands being present, and we faced the possibility to be stuck here for three months when both the road in front and behind us would become impassable.

Back in Tanzania All went well until just over the Tanzania border at the Lakeside, where a bridge was washed away and we had to do a detour of only 14 kms muddy track, that already was damaged by many trucks.

There were local people there, assisting you (by pushing you through) or themselves (by first digging holes and then making you pay to close it up again). At one stage a rope was put across the road and a truck was parked to block an alternative route. Too bad for them was that we could pass the truck and after a bit of tuck of war we passed the rope as well. It was good to see how strong the engine of our sidecar is, pulling it through thick mud without trouble. We did not need any help then.

In Mwanza we spent a few lovely days with Dick and Husna (Dutch/Tanz) and Kees, who used to live within 500 meters from where Rob has lived for a long time. His sister also works for the same newspaper we write for. So you can imagine that we had a lot of "just-like-home-talks" with a lively spirit.

We decided not to ride the stretch along the western side of the lake (towards the DR Congo and Rwanda), because we heard you need to take an armed police guard on board, which we can't, and that the border-crossing into Uganda is one of problems. There still seem to be a lot of refugees in this area, which also make it a lot less safe to travel through. We decided to take the boat into Kampala directly, which was much more comfortable as well. Our motorcycle was loaded onto the deck with the utmost care after which we strapped it down and covered it, so people would leave it alone.

Uganda

On arrival in Uganda we were surprised to find out that since 1 march everyone from outside Africa needs to buy a visa, costing US$ 30,- per person. It used to be free! Well, we had no choice, did we. We are now two weeks in Uganda, visited a group of ex-child soldiers in the North, that have been abducted to fight in Sudan. To talk to them and see their drawings (we again did our project) was very constructive, but I cannot say that it made me smile. It is almost like the children need to comfort you that all will come right, instead of the other way around. And then, when you see the drawings that they made about what they've gone through, their lives now and what they hope for in the future, makes you know that they will get there one way or the other.

The help they get in this camp is also very well set up and earns our full respect. Many children have already returned home, to help their families (those who are not slaughtered by the rebels) to plant. The fear now is that the rebels will return when harvesting time is there and the children that are then re-abducted will certainly face death.

Yes, the world is not all nice and beautiful and it is hard to believe what horrors people are able to commit, even after having seen the results of all those massacres in Rwanda and the Congo, or even what is going on in Kosovo right now.

Ride on We are a bit tired of Africa, look forward to reach Egypt and head for India. The visa for Sudan (we will go through the north and have some good contacts there) are already approved of by the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi, where we will return in about one week.

Till next time, a greeting and a smile

Rob and Dafne de Jong
Ride-on Worldtour

Story and photos copyright © Rob and Dafne de Jong 1998-2002.
All Rights Reserved.

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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